Ash Wednesday Ukraine Speech

Written by Emma Wilson (Transition Year)

There is no way to sugarcoat that right now, as we gather in safety, people are dying. There is no way to sugarcoat that war has erupted in a fellow European country. And there is no way to sugarcoat that today we stand here in solidarity with the people who have suffered tremendous grief and terror in the past few days.

As a Ukrainian I have been called here to deliver a few words to you all about the violence that has commenced just under a week ago. What I want to push for you all today is solidarity. We may be many miles away from any sort of conflict but to stand in solidarity; we do not have to stand close. To stand in solidarity we do not have to speak the same tongue, or eat the same food or have the same traditions. All we have to do is remember the humanity of those across Europe, imagine the sudden suffering inflicted after many years of rising tensions and remember that much like the bombs that rained upon Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, this act of violence has long lasting effects.

And this is where human sympathy enters the equation as we wish that as the tide pulls out it will take Russian ships with it, as the wind blows back it will bring the Kremlin tanks too and that as Ukraine resists, Putin will not be able to start what could descend into a European war. This is how we stand in solidarity.

Another more solemn approach is remembering. Remembering that there are people like me, that could have been me, and like you still stuck in the crossfire. Remembering that people not unlike your fathers and brothers and cousins potentially handing their lives away to defend their nation and never forgetting the people who have already had their blood spilt and now lie as but a memory. Innocent people that need to be spoken for and that we honour here today. This goes for not only innocent Ukrainians but Russian soldiers who do not know what they’re doing or were lied to and forced to fight. It’s hard to believe among the hatred for Vladimir Putin, but not all the Russian soldiers are willingly in Ukraine and so they too need to be remembered for their lives which were taken with no dignity. And so, we stand in solidarity. Whether for the dozen of Ukrainians that have been taken hostage for defending Snake Island, for grandparents such as my own who are unable to flee, or the Russians who have escaped home in defiance since the fighting began or Polina, the eleven year old girl murdered escaping Kiev, we stand together in solidarity.

For the wheat fields of yellow and the skies of blues, for the soldiers who have handed over their lives and for the children who see the world not through rose tinted glasses as children should, but through bunkers and bombshells; we stand in solidarity.

And as you all have received the ash on your foreheads I urge you to remember that somewhere, just across Europe, there’s a nation of people who also have soft, black powder covering their faces.

Just maybe not by choice.

Слава Україні

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